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Backpack Burden: The subject of students and their overloaded backpacks has become a weighty issue for schools.

Now, researchers at the Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., have enlisted the help of two school districts to help them come up with guidelines for safe backpack use.

A 1999 survey conducted by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that 58 percent of the orthopedists who responded reported seeing patients complaining of back and shoulder pain caused by heavy backpacks.

The doctors surveyed indicated that heavy backpacks can lead to medical problems in school-age children if they don't reduce the weight they lug.

Many schools, especially those serving the middle grades, now limit backpack use during the school day, said Geraldine Neiss, a research associate at the hospital.

"Many schools have already made policy changes," Ms. Neiss said, noting that the limits stem from both concern about students' health and worries about security and safety.

The researchers hope to recruit as many as 1,000 12- to 17-year olds from the Avon Grove school district in West Grove, Pa., and the Christina, Del., schools. Both districts have agreed to allow students whose parents consent to participate in the 18-month study, Ms. Neiss said.

Researchers plan to weigh and measure the children and their backpacks every three to six months. In addition, the children will answer questions about their health and their backpack use. Students will be tested to determine how their walking and posture change with or without a backpack.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 7, Page 3

Published in Print: October 18, 2000, as Take Note

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